Guest Post: Irfan Khan, Skykit
Some buzzwords and buzzphrases are just inherently bad. My favorites include “boil the ocean,” “sync,” and “edgy.”
Tip: avoid the word edgy unless you’re talking about knives.
A bad buzzword is one that doesn’t add something to the conversation, and isn’t a concrete concept that can be capitalized on.
Omni-channel is one of those terms that’s been tagged a buzzword. But it’s not bad. In fact, it’s the future.
Before we get into that, though, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about what it is. Omni-channel marketing or customer engagement focuses on delivering a seamless and on-brand experience to customers, across all mediums the customer uses to interact with them.
That means that whether the customer is using a proprietary app, scrolling through the company’s website on their computer, strolling around the store in person, or so on, each of these elements should be congruent with and complementary to each other, with the goal of making the customer’s shopping experience easier and selling your product in the process.
Just the other day, I browsed an online clothing store. Later, when I logged onto Facebook, there was an ad for the very same shirt I was looking at, and of course I didn’t even need to see the logo to know which brand it was because it was consistent with the site I had just been on.
That’s an example of omni-channel marketing.
The issue for brick-and-mortar retailers is that it’s much easier to do online, with the help of cookies and targeted advertising. This may be why 70 percent of Americans regularly shop online.
However, digital signage offers a number of solutions for bringing omni-channel marketing into the physical retail space. Here’s why you should give it a try.
Worth noting: I put together a checklist of 6 questions to gauge your digital signage readiness. You can download the PDF here to see if digital signage makes sense for your business.
1. Brings Online and In-Person Together
While consumers shop online regularly, 90 percent of purchases still occur in brick-and-mortar locations.
Retailers should be interested in keeping that number high by combining the convenience of online shopping with the in-person experience. Customers still value browsing the shelves and intermingling with real sales associates to ask questions.
However, if the kind of information consumers expect from their online experience isn’t available, they may end up browsing your store while comparison-shopping on their smartphones and ultimately purchasing elsewhere.
Forty-six percent of customers report engaging in showrooming behavior.
Digital signage can help mimic the online experience and reduce the temptation to showroom.
For example, customers can be greeted with a welcome message and information about the day’s deals as soon as they walk through the door. The experience gets even more personal when beacon technology comes into play, offering suggestions directly to the consumer’s smartphone based on prior buying habits. (See the “Suggestions” below for more details.)
Digital signage also mimics the amount of information available online—which brings us to our next point …
2. Educates Shoppers and Associates
Interactive kiosks are a popular option for stores looking to increase their omni-channel integration. Customers can use them in much the same way they would their computer at home, but with the added benefit of many of the items being right there and available to examine in person.
Customers can browse detailed information about items and even compare between multiple similar items, such as different types of laptops.
They can also build a wishlist of items they may want to purchase later and send it to their phone.
If there are items or item options (such as a certain size or color) that aren’t currently in-stock, they can order directly from the kiosk for in-store pickup or home delivery.
Digital signage can empower sales associates, as well.
Equipping them with tablets allows them instant access to deeper information about items than they could carry in their heads. They may even be able to access sales data that the customer wouldn’t be able to find for themselves, enabling them to say something like, “This is our best-selling model!” accurately. It may also enable them to upsell or suggest related items more easily.
3. Data-Driven Deals
Perhaps most excitingly, the omni-channel strategy allows you to create deals and offers based on actual sales and inventory data.
Digital signage can be updated much more rapidly than traditional signage, so you can take advantage of brief windows of opportunity. If a certain product isn’t selling as rapidly as it should in order to keep you from having a surplus, you can offer a one-day sale on it, promoted digitally.
You can also vary messaging based on location, time of day, or even weather conditions.
Timely, targeted promotional messaging can lure in customers without the need to offer frequent deep cuts, which conditions customers to always expect ultra-low prices.
4. Seamless Brand Experience
Deliberately taking a multi-screen approach gives you an opportunity to brand holistically. Each of the channels your customer uses to interact with the store should reflect your overall brand narrative in terms of look and content. This is essential because your branding is essentially your company’s personality. It differentiates you from other companies and makes you a little less faceless to customers.
Digital signage gives you a chance to put your best face forward with branding. By creating beautiful content that fits with your brand narrative, you remind your customers that they’re not just at any store—they’re at your store.
And when the signage, your proprietary app, and your website all present the same strong branding, the impact is even more powerful.
Just make sure that they do, in fact, match up—you don’t want customers thinking your company doesn’t have a sense of its own identity.
You can do that by creating a style guide for your company to follow, including information about both the aesthetics and the type of copy your company wants, and also by making sure all locations receive the same content.
There’s more information about coherent branding in digital signage in this post.
Suggestions for Integration
Beacon technology is a powerful tool for highly targeted interaction with customers.
Bluetooth-enabled hardware senses the presence of a smartphone with a certain app installed. It pings the app, and the app then contacts the server and receives a personalized message to display for the customer.
The message can vary based on location in the store, demographic of the customer, and more. Or, a message can be triggered on a nearby digital display.
Pros: Targeted advertising makes the customer feel known and appreciated by the company, driving customer loyalty. It’s timely because you can set them up in each aisle to capitalize on their buying intent. The hardware itself is inexpensive—as low as a dollar per beacon. And it’s highly effective: 81% of customers who receive an alert open it.
Cons: Customers may dislike downloading individual apps for each store they frequent.
Loyalty Program Tie-Ins
Kiosks located in the store can encourage customers to sign up for your loyalty programs in order to receive special discounts and news about sales.
Then, you can integrate beacon technology to deliver those deals directly to the customer’s phone as they stroll around the store, or email them coupons or a newsletter to be used during online browsing.
The key here is to leave the choice up to the customer, so you can engage them using whatever channel with which they feel most comfortable.
Pros: It’s right there in the name—loyalty programs encourage customer loyalty, and seeing instant results for your choice to sign up and frequent the store is sure to feel gratifying.
Cons: A kiosk dedicated entirely to recruiting new customers to your loyalty program may be costly, and would have to be highly effective in order to pay for itself.
Digital signs facing outwards can display the day’s deals and specials, including the aforementioned data-driven ones.
Pros: A great way to bring in foot traffic.
Cons: Depending on your goals, if might make more sense to use digital displays indoors to announce deals since people already in the store would see it.
As customers increasingly expect the ability to integrate their personal screens into their shopping experience and demand a wider availability of information so they can make informed decisions, retailers must find a way to keep up.
Omni-channel marketing and customer engagement integrated with digital signage is one of the best ways to do that.
It enforces your brand, enables both employees and customers alike to view and share information, combines the convenience of online shopping with the in-person hospitality of browsing a brick-and-mortar store, and empowers retailers to offer data-backed and timely promotions for maximum impact.
The question is, when and where will you start?